November 17, 2017

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Hacking the Night Away at AASL

Close to 100 attendees of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) National Conference came together for Hack the Organization, a late night meeting that encouraged engagement from AASL members. Rutgers professor and “Neverending Search” blogger Joyce Valenza and Deb Logan, the AASL advocacy committee chair, organized the event to identify issues and crowdsource solutions. The audience was diverse, including recent college graduates, experienced school librarians, vendors, administrators, and past presidents of AASL.

An outpouring of passion

Valenza kicked off the event by defining hacking: “playful solving of a problem.” Tiffany Whitehead, school librarian at Central Middle School in Baton Rouge (LA), read prompts and then opened the floor, eliciting passionate responses. To “What I Love About AASL,” Craig Seasholes, a Seattle elementary school librarian, answered: “You find people who do the same thing you do, but they do it differently.”  Dreams for AASL, anyone? More diversity, better communication, and greater recognition of the work school librarians do by those outside the field were oft-cited hopes.

Bob Moore, an administrator from Lexington, KY, gave smart advice. “Make yourself valuable to your district, so valuable that they can’t cut you.”  Moore said he was there to learn how to advocate for librarians in his district. In a similar vein, AASL members were advised to volunteer for committee work and apply for awards.

Bob Moore an administrator from Lexington, Kentucky.   The woman with the black shirt is Heather Moorefield-Lang, Assistant Professor for at the University of SC.

Bob Moore, an administrator from Lexington, KY, listens as Heather Moorefield-Lang, Assistant Professor at the University of SC, offers an idea.

 

Money matters

Sylvie Shaffer, school librarian at the Maret School in Washington, D.C., brought up a salient issue: equity in accessing resources such as the national conference they were at. She pointed out that the cost of attending conferences on top of membership dues can be prohibitive to librarians who have to pay out of their own pockets. At that, Eric Fitzgerald of Capstone challenged the group to think about how to bring more librarians to conferences.

 

Fresh solutions to typical problems

During the second part of the evening, participants divided into table groups and focused on specific topics, such as increasing the visibility of AASL, getting new voices heard, and upping AASL’s “cool factor.” Despite the late hour, the room was abuzz with laughter. Angie Martinez, school librarian for Washington, DC, Public Schools, proudly shared her group’s hack, for improving the national conference: a lounge where attendees can share in an informal atmosphere.

Angela Martinez, librarian at Washington, DC public schools, reveals her team's top hack.

Angela Martinez, school librarian for Washington, DC public schools, reveals her team’s top hack.

Other savvy hacks generated included: offering online components to national conferences for those unable to attend, establishing new conference scholarships, shifting from one large fall forum to several regional events, adding more visuals to the AASL site, and webinars on conference proposals. All the resulting ideas were collected in Google docs and on a Padlet to be shared with AASL leadership. Finally, a Twitter hashtag (#myaasl) was designated to inspire AASL members to continue the conversation on social media.

 

Just after midnight, Deb Logan brought the night to a close with encouragement. “We are the association. Plan to be part of the change.”

 

Cathy Potter is a school librarian at Falmouth Elementary School in Falmouth, ME.

 

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Comments

  1. These engaging evening events were highlights of AASL Conference for me. Both Hack Your Association and the Unconference were fast paced and fun, with participants sharing in the creation of what I hope will come to be a regular part of how we “do conference.” As this year also saw the last of a long and memorable run of 21 years of “Treasure Mountain Research Retreats” https://sites.google.com/site/treasuremtresearchretreat/ let’s work to ensure that our associations continues to feature these sorts of interactive knowledge sharing opportunities. Kudos to everyone who participated and who find ways to re-create meaningful ways to work (and play) together to create the programs-and associations-our profession needs.